05.06.

1976: Collapse of the Teton Dam in Idaho

1976: Collapse of the Teton Dam in Idaho
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/The breach has now widened to nearly its full extent. The outlet works are completely inundated with muddy water

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 5 June 1976
  • About 57,000 cubic meters of water emptied into the downstream canyon per second. The consequences for downstream settlements were disastrous. The water destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.

On this day in 1976, the Teton Dam in Idaho collapsed.

It was a big disaster, which claimed fourteen human lives and killed about 13,000 head of cattle. It was a dam in the U.S. state of Idaho, located a hundred kilometers from the famous Yellowstone National Park.

The Teton Dam was made of compacted earth and somewhere between $50 and $100 million was spent on its construction.

The dam was almost one kilometer long and 93 meters high. The burst and the collapse of the dam occurred shortly after its completion, just at the time when its reservoir was filled with water for the first time.

On this day, during the morning, there was a wet spot on the downstream side of the dam and water started to leak.

Workers tried to plug the leak with machinery, but were unsuccessful. The evacuation of the downstream population was ordered.

The crack in the dam was widening and pouring so much water that some workers had to flee and leave the equipment to be carried away by the water.

The crest of the dam collapsed around noon and a third of the main dam wall then disintegrated. About 57,000 cubic meters of water per second emptied into the downstream canyon.

By nightfall, the reservoir had nearly completely emptied. The consequences for downstream settlements were disastrous.

The water destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. The racing water even carried logs that were very destructive. The claims paid to the injured parties were measured in hundreds of millions of dollars.

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